Book Review: Rise of the King (Companions Codex #2) by R.A. Salvatore

Book Review: Rise of the King (Companions Codex #2) by R.A. SalvatoreRise of the King by R.A. Salvatore
Series: Companions Codex, Forgotten Realms
Published by Wizards of the Coast on September 30, 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
In the second book of the Companions Codex, the latest series in the New York Times best-selling saga of dark elf Drizzt Do'Urden, R.A. Salvatore picks up with the fan-favorite storyline of dwarf king Bruenor Battlehammer and his bloody feud with the orc kingdom of Many Arrows.

Book Review:

RISE OF THE KING is the second book in the Companions Codex, which features the reincarnated Bruenor, Regis, Catti-brie, and Wulfgar rejoining Drizzt Do’Urden. It is also the 26th book in the Legend of Drizzt saga.

RISE OF THE KING picks up right after NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. There’s not a lot of recap from the first book, so I was a bit lost at first since I couldn’t remember a lot of what happened. Essentially, the drow are bringing about war in the Silver Marches, using the orcs of Many Arrows to do their dirty work.

THE GOOD:

–R.A. Salvatore writes some great action scenes, and there are lots of them in this book, both small and large scale. The gang fights groups of orcs and goblins, and they also help the besieged town of Nesmé.

–The book doesn’t just follow the Companions, which helps show the impact of war on the entire area. There are scenes from others, including Afafrenfere, Jarlaxle, Kimmuriel, and “common” people. I was personally hoping for more from the drow, especially Quenthel Baenre, but she wasn’t very present in this book.

THE BAD:

–The first third or so of RISE OF THE KING is a real slog to get through. I typically read about 400-450 words per minute, and I was down to 200 for the beginning of this book. What I’m trying to point out here is the writing is so … obfuscated. I can’t remember how many times I had to reread sentences and paragraphs to figure out what the author was trying to say. Sometimes it felt like I was reading fanfic. After battles started, the writing became clearer, as if Salvatore found his stride (or maybe I just got used to it).

–Yes, there are a lot of battles in RISE OF THE KING, but overall, the book mostly moves characters around, putting them into place for a showdown in the final book. When I finally finished reading, I wasn’t left with the impression that a whole lot had happened.

Overall, RISE OF THE KING is very much a middle book, functioning as more evidence for “all orcs are evil” and furthering the war in Luruar. I’ve skipped a lot of the middle books in the Legend of Drizzt saga, but I get the feeling this book is going back on a lot of what happened. Oh well. Even though I wasn’t blown away by RISE OF THE KING, I’m still looking forward to seeing how everything ends.

Socialize with the author:

R.A. Salvatore:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Thickety: A Path Begins by J.A. White

Book Review: The Thickety: A Path Begins by J.A. WhiteThe Thickety: A Path Begins by J.A. White
Series: The Thickety #1
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on May 6, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 496
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
3 Stars
Hand in hand, the witch's children walked down the empty road.

When Kara Westfall was six years old, her mother was convicted of the worst of all crimes: witchcraft. Years later, Kara and her little brother, Taff, are still shunned by the people of their village, who believe that nothing is more evil than magic . . . except, perhaps, the mysterious forest that covers nearly the entire island. It has many names, this place. Sometimes it is called the Dark Wood, or Sordyr's Realm. But mostly it's called the Thickety.

The black-leaved trees swayed toward Kara and then away, as though beckoning her.

The villagers live in fear of the Thickety and the terrible creatures that live there. But when an unusual bird lures Kara into the forbidden forest, she discovers a strange book with unspeakable powers. A book that might have belonged to her mother.

And that is just the beginning of the story.

The Thickety: A Path Begins is the start of a thrilling and spellbinding tale about a girl, the Thickety, and the power of magic.

Book Review:

THE THICKETY: A PATH BEGINS is intended as a middle grade book: ages 10 and up, grades 5 and up. I know my younger self could have handled this book — there’s a lot of horror and some graphic imagery — but it might not be suitable for all younger readers. If in doubt, read the Prologue as that should give a hint as to some of the content of the book.

After her mother is killed on suspicions of witchcraft, Kara, her brother, and her father are the village’s outcasts. Everyone talks about Kara behind her back. The ruler’s daughter, Grace, makes it her special mission to torment Kara while making it look like Kara is the one bullying her. Kara’s father lives in a depressed stupor, unable to take care of his children the way a father should. Kara’s brother, Taff, is sickly. It’s up to Kara to support the family, and that’s a lot for a twelve-year-old to deal with.

That’s where I had trouble with THE THICKETY: A PATH BEGINS. I can suspend disbelief about all sorts of things, but I had a really hard time believing Kara was only twelve. Yes, everything she went through made her old for her years, but still. She read like sixteen or seventeen to me, not twelve. In fact, I forgot how old she was until the author reminded me, and I sat there for a moment, kinda stunned.

The things I liked most about THE THICKETY: A PATH BEGINS are the magic system and the author’s writing style. I thought using grimoires to power a witch’s magic was neat, and it fit into the world. The author’s writing style sucked me into the story, keeping me reading until I finished the book. At almost 500 pages, I do think THE THICKETY: A PATH BEGINS is a bit too long, but it does read quickly. I also liked the chapter heading illustrations; I normally don’t notice artwork, but I did here. They helped me get into Kara’s world.

The ending of THE THICKETY: A PATH BEGINS, oh that ending! It’s one that will make you want the sequel now. There’s a twist didn’t see it coming, which I always like. However, I do wish that Kara had actually spent more time in the Thickety. Based on the title of the book, and the way the villagers avoid the Thickety, I assumed that it would play a bigger role. The glimpses of the Thickety made me want more. Kara’s village is interesting too, a sort of utopia that’s determined to prove witchcraft is wrong. Again, something I wished there had been more of.

Overall, THE THICKETY: A PATH BEGINS was okay for me. I think it might be a bit dark for the intended age group, but I’m not the best person to judge that. It’s a good start to a series, enough to make me want more, but it just wasn’t an amazing book for me.

Socialize with the author:

J.A. White:
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– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: Unteachable by Leah Raeder

waiting on wednesday

unteachable by leah raederUnteachable by Leah Raeder
Release Date: October 14, 2014

Maise O’Malley just turned eighteen, but she’s felt like a grown-up her entire life. The summer before senior year, she has plans: get into a great film school, convince her mom to go into rehab, and absolutely do not, under any circumstances, screw up her own future.

But life has a way of throwing her plans into free-fall.

When Maise meets Evan at a carnival one night, their chemistry is immediate, intense, and short-lived. Which is exactly how she likes it: no strings. But afterward, she can’t get Evan out of her head. He’s taught her that a hookup can be something more. It can be an unexpected connection with someone who truly understands her. Someone who sees beyond her bravado to the scared but strong girl inside.

That someone turns out to be her new film class teacher, Mr. Evan Wilke.

Maise and Evan resolve to keep their hands off each other, but the attraction is too much to bear. Together, they’re real and genuine; apart, they’re just actors playing their parts for everyone else. And their masks are slipping. People start to notice. Rumors fly. When the truth comes to light in a shocking way, they may learn they were just playing parts for each other, too.

Smart, sexy, and provocative, Unteachable is about what happens when a love story goes off-script. (summary from goodreads)

You might ask why I’m featuring UNTEACHABLE if I’ve already read and reviewed it. Answer: I love Leah and her book, and Atria picked it up and is releasing UNTEACHABLE! If you like teacher/student romance and some sexy NA, this is the book for you. I can’t wait to have a paperback of this baby on my shelf.

Socialize with the author:
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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna

The Reading Machine [10]: September 28, 2014

reading machine

For my Stacking the Shelves/Sunday Post, which I’m calling The Reading Machine, I list the books I’m hoping to read in the upcoming week as well as a short life/blog update.

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews, and you can find out all about it here. Sunday Post is hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer, and you can find out all about it here.

The Reading Machine:

So I’m still in a weird reading mood. I keep starting books but then can’t concentrate. While I have read a couple of good books, they haven’t broken my slump. Although, it’s been going on so long now that I don’t think it can be called a reading slump. It’s a general life slump, whee! Maybe I need a vacation.

Ah, well. Onto the books I hope to read in the upcoming week.

UNBORN by Amber Lynn Natusch
for review
RISE OF THE KING by R.A. Salvatore
for review
THE YOUNG ELITES by Marie Lu
for review
THE JEWEL by Amy Ewing
for review

I am all caught up on reviews that needed to be written, so I’m diving into a new round of review books. I’ve picked out a few that I’m excited to read, and maybe that’ll keep me turning the pages. Right now I’ve been rereading old favorites, which is okay, but when you reread a book back to back… yeah.

On the Blog:

I’ve posted quite a few book reviews since the last time I did a Sunday post, so here we go:

Book Review: Adagio (The Company #1) by Delancey Stewart
Book Review: 84 Ribbons by Paddy Eger
Book Review: Frostborn (Thrones & Bones #1) by Lou Anders
Book Review: Thorn Jack (Night and Nothing #1) by Katherine Harbour
Book Review: Traitor’s Blade (Greatcoats #1) by Sebastien de Castell
Book Review: After the End (After the End #1) by Amy Plum
Book Review: Passion Blue (Passion Blue #1) by Victoria Strauss
Book Review: Color Song (Passion Blue #2) by Victoria Strauss
Book Review: Shameless by Nina Lemay
Book Review: Prisoner of the Queen (Tales From the Tudor Court #2) by E. Knight
Book Review: Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta

What Up, Life?

leeanna.me

See that? That’s half my yard. I often joke that I almost want a push mower for the exercise, but by the time I finished, I’d have to turn around and start over. I’ve spent enough time outside this summer to get a tan, and I have never tanned in my life. I always burned, turned into a lobster, and peeled back to white. For a while I was even rocking a farmer tan.

In the past month, I have:
Cut the grass
Cut the grass
Cut the grass
Cut the grass
Stained the wraparound porch
Cleaned out the garage
Cleaned out the gutters
De-grubbed the lawn
De-skunked the house
Stained the bottom of all the barns
Picked up a truckton of walnuts and sticks

In case you were wondering, it stinks hellabad when a skunk sprays right behind your house.

Hence why I’ve been so brain dead. I have a lot of thinking time outside, and I’ve come up with a fair number of blog ideas and posts I want to do, but by the time I’m done for the night, I’m usually too worn out to think anymore. Let alone actually do anything. I’m almost excited for winter, although I know I’ll regret that when it feels like -15 outside.

Also, it is so weird to be tired at 8pm. :| Major night owl here.

So that’s my fun month!

– leeanna

Book Review: Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta

Book Review: Memory of Water by Emmi ItärantaMemory of Water by Emmi Itäranta
Published by Harper Voyager on June 10, 2014
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fantasy, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
Global warming has changed the world's geography and its politics. Wars are waged over water, and China rules Europe, including the Scandinavian Union, which is occupied by the power state of New Qian. In this far north place, seventeen-year-old Noria Kaitio is learning to become a tea master like her father, a position that holds great responsibility and great secrets. Tea masters alone know the location of hidden water sources, including the natural spring that Noria's father tends, which once provided water for her whole village.

But secrets do not stay hidden forever, and after her father's death the army starts watching their town-and Noria. And as water becomes even scarcer, Noria must choose between safety and striking out, between knowledge and kinship.

Imaginative and engaging, lyrical and poignant, Memory of Water is an indelible novel that portrays a future that is all too possible.

Book Review:

“But I knew that was what the best stories were like: you could believe in them, even if you knew they were just imagination (p. 65).”

For me, the above quote perfectly sums up MEMORY OF WATER. This book feels like it could come true. Sometime in the future, we could live in a world where there’s very little fresh water. In a world where the army controls all sources of water, there’s water rationing, and water crimes result in death.

The progress of MEMORY OF WATER is a lot like water. The book moves along slowly but surely, sometimes circling obstacles, but always coming back to the main story. I will warn you that this book doesn’t have a neat ending or resolution, which is usually something that bugs the heck out of me, because I like concrete endings, but it didn’t bother me here.

I did have some trouble getting into the book when I started it. But once I read a few chapters and got used to Noria’s narration, the author’s writing style, and the world, I didn’t want to put the book down. I finished it in one day, and a week later, I’m still thinking about MEMORY OF WATER.

Noria is a tea master, perhaps an odd profession in a world where water is so scarce. But tea masters preserve traditions, and Noria’s family also guards a secret spring, one of the last free springs. The secret spring lets the author explore lots of questions: Can water be controlled by the army? Should free water be kept a secret when families are suffering, even dying because they don’t have enough water? Should one take the easy way out, or stand up for what one believes in?

There’s not a lot of action in MEMORY OF WATER, which is a-okay. The book doesn’t need it. I’m just pointing that out because this book is different (in a good way) from a lot of the popular dystopian/post-apocalyptic YA fiction out there. MEMORY OF WATER is a book to make you think, a book that laps at the edges of your brain as you read. And the writing is just gorgeous, descriptive and evocative without falling into the usual cliches.

There is one thing about MEMORY OF WATER I didn’t like, which made it a 4 star book instead of a 5 star book. In order to explain what that one thing is, I have to do some plot spoiling, so don’t keep reading if you don’t want to know what happens. I will say it relates to worldbuilding, and while the author paints an excellent portrait of the world now, daily life and politics included, she doesn’t go into too much detail of how it became that way.

Otherwise, an amazing debut. Simple in some ways, but so complex in others. A real thought provoking book, putting the speculative in speculative fiction. I will definitely be on the lookout for more from Emmi Itäranta.

 

 

 

Last spoiler warning!

 

 

 

Okay. One of my big peeves is when authors withhold information from the reader. Noria and her best friend discover the truth about how the world changed, but the author does not tell the reader. That information stays a secret between Noria and Sanja, which is a shame, because I really wanted to know what happened. If they hadn’t found out the truth, I wouldn’t have been as disappointed, but they did, and so I was irked over that.

Socialize with the author:

Emmi Itäranta:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Prisoner of the Queen (Tales From the Tudor Court #2) by E. Knight

Book Review: Prisoner of the Queen (Tales From the Tudor Court #2) by E. KnightPrisoner of the Queen by E. Knight
Series: Tales From the Tudor Court #2
Published by Knight Media on July 30, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance
Pages: 342
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
I have served three queens in my life. One was my sister, one was my savior, and one my bitterest enemy.

Knowing she was seen as a threat to the Queen she served, Lady Katherine Grey, legitimate heir to the throne, longs only for the comfort of a loving marriage and a quiet life far from the intrigue of the Tudor court. After seeing her sister become the pawn of their parents and others seeking royal power and then lose their lives for it, she is determined to avoid the vicious struggles over power and religion that dominate Queen Elizabeth’s court. Until she finds love—then Kat is willing to risk it all, even life in prison.

prisoner of the queen by e. knight blog tour

I’m on a historical fiction kick lately, so it’s appropriate that I have a tour stop for PRISONER OF THE QUEEN by E. Knight. The book is the second in her Tales From the Tudor Court series, but you don’t need to read the books in order. The tour is hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, and you can visit all the stops here.

Book Review:

Most people know the tale of Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days Queen. I’ve read several books about her, fiction and nonfiction, but PRISONER OF THE QUEEN is the first book I’ve read that tells the story of her sister, Katherine. That’s what attracted me to the book in the first place, and I think E. Knight does a fantastic effort reimagining Katherine’s story.

Katherine’s story is not a happy one: for daring to marry the man she loved behind Queen Elizabeth’s back, she spent the rest of her life imprisoned. But even before her marriage to Edward Seymour, Katherine wasn’t in control of her life. Both Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth felt threatened by her presence, for she also had a claim to the throne, although she wanted nothing to do with it.

Katherine is an easy character to root for. She doesn’t want to be a pawn, used for the gains of men. She just wants to be happy, to enjoy life, to have a husband and children. But that isn’t in her stars, because of her royal blood and the political complications of the time. I liked how the author mentioned how pamphlets written by rebellious men impacted Katherine’s life — they were only thinking about their own gain, and never considered that Elizabeth would punish Katherine even more harshly. I didn’t quite agree with the author’s characterization of Elizabeth at first — jealous and fearful of losing power — but as the book went on, I believed it. For once, it was good to see Elizabeth from the view of someone wronged by the queen.

PRISONER OF THE QUEEN is a great book for fans of Tudor historical fiction. I really enjoyed Katherine’s story, and the ending made me tear up a bit. That doesn’t usually happen! I’m not always a fan of romance, but I got behind Katherine and Ned’s relationship, and wanted them to have a happy ending even though I knew they didn’t. The author included letters the two actually wrote to each other, and quotes from a poem written about their star crossed relationship kick off each chapter. PRISONER OF THE QUEEN is a different look into Tudor court life, from the eyes of one who doesn’t really want to be there.

About the author:

author e. knightE. Knight is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Romance Writers of America and several RWA affiliate writing chapters: Hearts Through History, Celtic Hearts, Maryland Romance Writers and Washington Romance Writers. Growing up playing in castle ruins and traipsing the halls of Versailles when visiting her grandparents during the summer, instilled in a love of history and royals at an early age. Feeding her love of history, she created the popular historical blog, History Undressed (www.historyundressed.com). Under the pseudonym Eliza Knight, she is a bestselling, award-winning, multi-published author of historical and erotic romance.
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– leeanna

Book Review: Shameless by Nina Lemay

Book Review: Shameless by Nina LemayShameless by Nina Lemay
Published by Self-Published on August 18, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 277
Format: eARC
Source: Author, Blog Tour
Goodreads
3 Stars
Girls like me don’t get happy endings.

I know what I am. At worst a cliché, at best a cautionary tale. I put an international border between me and my past, only to wind up working in a low-end titty bar. Even my excuse is as lame as it gets: I’m paying for college, getting my art degree from Montreal’s most prestigious school. Although some days it becomes confusing: am I just a student who moonlights as a stripper, or a stripper who masquerades as a student?

But the inevitable happens and my two lives collide. And now there’s one other person who knows both the quiet, antisocial Hannah and the sensual, shameless Alicia. One person who keeps my secret.

He’s beautiful, he’s sophisticated. He comes from the other side of life, the one where I’m not wanted or accepted. But he calls me la petite Américaine, and his hot, hot hands on my skin promise me things I long ago gave up on.

The problem? He teaches my Classic Photography class.

shameless by nina lemay blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for SHAMELESS by Nina Lemay. The tour is hosted by Itching For Books and you can visit all the stops here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

The summary for SHAMELESS drew me in. A pessimist stripping to pay her way through college? A girl who gets the shock of her life when a guy she gave a lap dance to shows up as her photography professor? Yum! I like some “forbidden” relationships, and this one has two. I also liked the cover, since I could see Hannah as the girl on the cover. Photography plays a big role in SHAMELESS, so I think the cover style was a great choice.

For the most part, I enjoyed SHAMELESS. I liked Hannah. She always sees the worst in things, expects bad things to happen, and doesn’t glamorize her life as a stripper. It’s just something she’s doing to pay for school, and yeah, she recognizes that’s a huge cliche. Too bad. She likes financial independence. I liked that she wanted to take advantage of men looking at her, and that she was shameless about her job choice.

Hannah’s not in a great place in her life. I would say it’s possible she’s depressed, just going through the motions. Until Emmanuel shows up, in the club and then at school. The two are drawn together, and while Hannah is at first worried Emmanuel will spill her secret, he shows her otherwise when he rescues her from a bad clubbing night. I did think their relationship progressed very quickly. Emmanuel is an incredibly sweet guy, and I could tell he wanted the best for Hannah. I could see why she liked him, but I wasn’t sure why Emmanuel was drawn to Hannah. I mean, Emmanuel offers to do some crazy things so they can date without it causing trouble, but I’m still not sure why. A bit more development for both Hannah and Emmanuel would have really helped me believe in their relationship, but once I got past that, I did enjoy seeing them together.

Some of the things that happened are maybe a tad unbelievable, but I can’t really go into those without spoiling way too much of the book. So, to be incredibly vague, I could sort of believe what happened, but I would have believed it a lot more if Hannah’s tragic past had been … more tragic. She’s hiding a big secret about why she thinks most guys hate women, but when the reveal came, I expected it to be … bigger.

SHAMELESS is set in Canada, Montreal to be exact. I appreciated a book set outside of the U.S., and enjoyed the author’s descriptions for Montreal and especially Quebec City. I do wish an explanation for a couple French Canadian terms had been provided, but a quick trip to Urban Dictionary helped out.

I think what I liked most about SHAMELESS was that Hannah didn’t let anyone change her. You don’t like that she’s a stripper? Fuck you. I absolutely loved her final photography project, and what it shows about others’ attitudes regarding stripping and women. And thanks to the author’s good descriptions, I could actually “see” each photo.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author nina lemayNina Lemay is a YA writer by day and author of sinfully twisted New Adult…well, also by day. She loves all things dark and edgy and never tires of tormenting her characters. While Nina is a fan of all things scary, Gothic, and fantastic, she doesn’t shy away from a gritty contemporary romance when the muse strikes. She lives in Montreal, a city that never fails to inspire, with her partner and her dog.
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– leeanna

Book Review: Color Song (Passion Blue #2) by Victoria Strauss

Book Review: Color Song (Passion Blue #2) by Victoria StraussColor Song by Victoria Strauss
Series: Passion Blue #2
on September 16, 2014
Pages: 334
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour, NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
By the author of the acclaimed "Passion Blue," a "Kirkus Reviews" Best Teen Book of 2012 and "a rare, rewarding, sumptuous exploration of artistic passion," comes a fascinating companion novel.

Artistically brilliant, Giulia is blessed - or cursed - with a spirit's gift: she can hear the mysterious singing of the colors as she creates them in the convent workshop of Maestra Humilita. It's here that Giulia, forced into the convent against her will, has found unexpected happiness and rekindled her passion to become a painter?an impossible dream for any woman in 15th century Italy.

But when a dying Humilita bequeaths Giulia her most prized possession - the secret formula for the luminously beautiful paint called Passion blue - Giulia realizes she's in danger from those who have long coveted the famous color. Faced with the prospect of a life in the convent barred from painting as punishment for keeping Humilita's secret, Giulia is struck by a desperate idea: What if she disguises herself as a boy? Could she make her way to Venice and find work as an artist's apprentice?

Along with the truth of who she is, Giulia carries more dangerous secrets: the exquisite voices of her paint colors and the formula for Humilita's Passion blue. And Venice, she discovers, with its gilded palazzos and masked balls, has secrets of its own. Trapped in her false identity in this dream-like place where reality and reflection are easily confused, and where art and ambition, love and deception hover like dense fog, can Giulia find her way?

This compelling novel explores timeless themes of love and illusion, gender and identity as it asks the question: what does it mean to risk everything to pursue your passion?

color song blog tour

I adored PASSION BLUE by Victoria Strauss when I read it last year, so when I was offered the chance to be on the blog tour for the companion novel, COLOR SONG, I was super excited.

The tour is hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, and you can check out all the stops here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

I really enjoyed PASSION BLUE, the first book about Giulia, a girl who wants to be a painter. But in Renaissance Italy, women aren’t painters. They’re servants or wives or nuns or prostitutes. Giulia was sent to a convent against her will, but against all odds, she finds a way to pursue her dream inside the convent.

Giulia’s story could have ended there, but thankfully, it didn’t. COLOR SONG is a companion to PASSION BLUE, and while it’s not super necessary to have read PASSION BLUE, it is helpful. Giulia does recap most of her story though, so you could dive right into COLOR SONG if you’re the impatient sort.

Sequels don’t always work for me, but I liked COLOR SONG even more than I liked PASSION BLUE. I didn’t want this book to end, because it was chock full of good stuff. The name comes directly from Giulia’s new ability: she can hear colors. Each one has its own song that fits the color. Malachite green has an acid whine, lead white purrs like a cat, and so on. Passion blue, the secret color that causes so much angst and joy for Giulia, has the very best song of all. I really liked this concept of color song, because it added even more to the author’s sumptuous descriptions of color.

In COLOR SONG, Giulia runs away from the convent and goes to Venice, the city for art. Venice was practically a living, breathing character, and I enjoyed seeing the city through Giulia’s eyes. I also really liked the descriptions of life in a master’s painting workshop, contrasting it to the one in the convent. But the descriptions of Giulia’s painting and color creation were the very best of all: I felt like I could really see each color she created. And the processes of creating those colors! So cool. I geek out over that sort of stuff.

Giulia has to disguise herself as a boy to follow her dream, but even as she does, she wonders how long she can keep her secrets. She’s not sure if she wants to live a lie, but with the attitudes against women, what can she do?

I could go on and on about COLOR SONG, but I don’t want to give away too much of the story. Yes, it is a tad depressing because of Giulia’s struggles, but she has help from unexpected sources. The epilogue gives a hopeful nod to the rest of her story, and while I would love another book about Giulia, if there isn’t one, I’m very satisfied with how everything wraps up.

I recommend COLOR SONG if you like historical fiction, art fiction, and/or stories about girls making their own futures.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author victoria straussVictoria Strauss is the author of nine novels for adults and young adults, including the STONE duology (THE ARM OF THE STONE and THE GARDEN OF THE STONE), and a historical novel for teens, PASSION BLUE. She has written hundreds of book reviews for magazines and ezines, including SF Site, and her articles on writing have appeared in Writer’s Digest and elsewhere. In 2006, she served as a judge for the World Fantasy Awards.

An active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), she’s co-founder, with Ann Crispin, of Writer Beware, a publishing industry watchdog group that tracks and warns about literary fraud. She maintains the popular Writer Beware website, Facebook page, and blog, for which she was a 2012 winner of an Independent Book Blogger Award. She was honored with the SFWA Service Award in 2009.

She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.
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– leeanna

Book Review: Passion Blue (Passion Blue #1) by Victoria Strauss

Book Review: Passion Blue (Passion Blue #1) by Victoria StraussPassion Blue by Victoria Strauss
Series: Passion Blue #1
Published by Skyscape on November 6, 2012
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Author
Goodreads
5 Stars
"Be sure you know your true heart’s desire, or you may find yourself surprised by what you receive."

This is the warning the Astrologer-Sorcerer gives Giulia when she pays him to create a magical talisman for her. The scorned illegitimate daughter of a Milanese nobleman, Giulia is determined to defy the dire fate predicted by her horoscope, and use the talisman to claim what she believes is her heart’s desire: true love and a place where she belongs–not likely prospects for a girl about to be packed off to the cloistered world of a convent.

But the convent of Santa Marta is full of surprises. There are strict rules, long hours of work, and spiteful rivalries…but there’s also friendship, and the biggest surprise of all: a workshop of female artists who produce paintings of astonishing beauty, using a luminous blue mixed from a secret formula: Passion blue. Yet even as Giulia begins to learn the mysteries of the painter’s craft, the magic of the talisman is at work, and a forbidden romance beckons her down a path of uncertainty and danger. She is haunted by the sorcerer’s warning, and by a question: does she really know the true compass of her heart?

Set in Renaissance Italy, this richly imagined novel about a girl’s daring journey towards self-discovery transports readers into a fascinating, exotic world where love, faith, and art inspire passion–of many different hues.

Book Review:

I’m not big on art. Famous paintings and sculptures and the like are nice in a historical way, but that’s about it. I prefer words over pictures, always have. Once in a while I’ll read a good biography or historical fiction about a famous painter, but that’s the extent of my interest.

So, if I don’t like art, you might ask why I enjoyed PASSION BLUE so much. The answer is easy: Victoria Strauss made paintings, the process of painting, and color theory come alive in words. Thanks to her vivid and clear descriptions, I could see Giulia’s drawings, see the paintings the nuns created, and see their enjoyment in their work. I could also see the gorgeous uniqueness of Passion blue, the secret blue color the convent’s painting mistress is famous for discovering.

PASSION BLUE is historical fiction with a little supernatural mixed in. When Giulia is sent to the convent of Santa Marta against her will, she asks an astrologer to make a talisman for her. She wants her dream of marriage and children to come true, not to be sentenced to a lonely, barren life behind convent walls. But in the convent, Giulia’s artistic abilities are discovered, and she’s taken under the wing of Maestra Humilità. Giulia is surprised to discover that women have more options inside the convent than outside. Inside, she could be a painter. Outside, she would just be a servant, maybe a wife if she’s lucky.

Anasurymboriel, the spirit inside Giulia’s talisman, will help her achieve her heart’s desire. She just has to figure out what it is.

PASSION BLUE is a book I’ve read twice since its release in 2012. I’m sure I’ll read it again in the future. It’s one of those books about art that makes me see why so many people enjoy artwork. It makes me want to pick up a paintbrush and play with colors, even though I can’t draw a stick figure. That’s how well the author described painting and color and composition. I also found convent life interesting: the differences between common-born and noble-born nuns, and how women sometimes had more freedom locked away from the world.

PASSION BLUE is an engaging historical fiction novel of painting life in Renaissance Italy, one girl’s pursuit to find her true heart’s desire in the place where she might never have expected it.

Upcoming:

Make sure you check back tomorrow, September 19, for my review of PASSION BLUE‘s sequel, COLOR SONG!

Socialize with the author:

Victoria Strauss:
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– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: Fairest by Marissa Meyer

waiting on wednesday

fairest by marissa meyerFAIREST (The Lunar Chronicles #3.5) by Marissa Meyer
Release date: January 27, 2015

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series. (summary from goodreads)

So I might have actually squeed when I saw the announcement for FAIREST. The Lunar Chronicles is one of my favorite series I’ve discovered while blogging, and while I haven’t read CRESS yet — I couldn’t deal with another long wait in between books! — I know I will love it, and the rest of the series. And I’m sure I’ll love just about anything Marissa Meyer writes.

Why FAIREST? Queen Levana is one of my favorite characters in the series. So to find out she would have her own book, hundreds of pages just about her, YES YES YES!!! Evil characters are usually the ones I like the most, but they get the least amount of attention. And Queen Levana? I’m sure there’s a great story there.

Give me this book now, please. If anyone I know gets an ARC, I might hunt you down. :)

Socialize with the author:

Marissa Meyer:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna